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Buddhist monks flee ‘health risk’ wind farm scheme

They have lived in peaceful seclusion in a Scottish forest for more than 25 years.

But now Buddhist monks claim they are being driven out by plans for a wind farm nearby.

They are leaving their world-famous retreat because they say that the 71 turbines will shatter their peace, making meditation impossible and damaging their health. The monks, based at t he Tharpaland International Retreat in the Forest of Ae, Dumfriesshire, are selling their home to the developer of Harestanes wind farm – ScottishPower.

Their decision to move has prompted warnings that other rural communities will be put at risk by similar schemes.

Last night, Tory MEP Struan Stevenson said: ‘I’m concerned that increasingly we will see rural communities forced out of once tranquil areas by wind f arm developers.’

In their report to a Scottish parliament renewable energy inquiry, the monks said ‘ meditative retreaters’ suffered from ‘acute physical symptoms’ after as little as a few hours next to three other Scots wind farms. These problems included chest pains, heart palpitations and dizziness.

The monks are now at an ‘advanced stage’ in the sale to ScottishPower.

Gen Kelsang Tharchin, resident teacher at the centre, said they felt the ‘health implications would be so adverse that Tharpaland would not be able to continue functioning as a retreat.’

Established in 1985, Tharpaland is the first such international centre of the New Kadampa tradition of Buddhism and attracts thousands of visitors.

Dr Sarah Laurie, medical director of the Waubra Foundation, an Australian body which researches the health effects of turbines, said: ‘The results from the monks’ studies, and the symptoms they reported, are utterly consistent with our findings in Australia.’

She predicted a growing ‘wind farm refugee’ phenomenon – people in rural areas moving away due to turbines.

A ScottishPower Renewables spokesman said: ‘Consent for Harestanes was granted following a rigorous planning process.

‘We have been in regular contact with Tharpaland over a number of years and we are in the process of finalising an agreement to purchase the property.’

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘ There is no credible evidence that wind farms affect health and no evidence of health effects arising from low-frequency noise from wind farms.’